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Dial-a-Doc doctors face disciplinary action as Zimbabwe’s health council rejects Econet’s telemedicine

A year now after the launch of Econet’s Dial-a-Doc health service, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) is still to accept it as a positive contribution to healthcare services in Zimbabwe. Information we have received from the council is that doctors working for the service were brought before the council to answer for their involvement in a “prohibited” service.

Said the council in an email to us: “Since this is a matter of public importance the Ministry of Health & Child Care has been informed and the medical practitioners involved have been brought before Council to answer for violations of Section 97 of the Health Professions Act (Chapter 27:19)“. The email was in response to questions we sent after reading the MDPCZ’s current position in a bulletin it publishes for health professionals.

The statement in the bulletin reads:


To summarize how Dial-a-Doc works: Econet has enlisted the service services of medical practitioners, who man a call center to help mobile subscribers with health problems over the phone. The subscribers are charged a premium rate of US 70 cents a minute for the call.

That some doctors have been ‘disciplined’ by the council for working for the service will likely dissuade doctors still working at the call centers, which in my opinion is negative overall. I personally don’t use Dial-a-Doc and don’t know anyone that does but I think that’s more about the price compared to alternatives – going to a hospital and seeing a doctor physically than paying Econet to be told to go see one. But maybe that’s because I have convinient access to doctor.

Since the council says it is consulting to come up with a model to regulate telemedicine we asked about the progress on that front. The council’s response:

Consultations have already resumed. Council has tasked a Committee to develop guidelines on telemedicine and Medical Tourism. We expect to present the draft guidelines before the end of the second quarter of the year.

On the Econet side of things Dial-a-Doc seems on low key though the company doesn’t like share figures. In fact, not sharing figures is a sign that a product didn’t do as well as expected. Uptake has likely been very low. But again that’s probably an issue of price than anything else. We asked the company what they feel about the MDPCZ’s insistence on Dial-a-Doc being prohibited and here’s their response:

The Dial aDoc provides advice on health issues. Econet provides the technology platform on which the Dial aDoc service is provided. As previously announced by Econet, Dial aDoc is a partnership with qualified doctors who provide advice on health issues. Our partner has made a presentation to the MDPCZ to explain the service. The service is not new and is already available in several countries including our own neighbours in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa

Econet’s position is ofcourse a slight departure from their launch message when Dial-a-Doc was all about them innovating in health through Econet Health, to now them just being a call center partner for doctors offering the health advice.

It’s understandable why they’d change after seeing the rejection from a council that has the backing of the law to ‘discipline’ medical practitioners. It also doesn’t help that the Health Professions Authority of Zimbabwe, to which disciplinary disputes between medical practitioners and the council are escalated, is not a fan of Dial-Doc either.

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14 thoughts on “Dial-a-Doc doctors face disciplinary action as Zimbabwe’s health council rejects Econet’s telemedicine

  1. From onset I’m sure both parties want to see better patient care. Ensuring better patient care involves different parties each with a unique role to play. Its a year since launch and it would be interesting to know if there have been some discussions between econet and the regulatory body and what were possible remedies agreed to.

  2. This so called council is being reactive rather than proactive. These are services now available everywhere in the world except in Zimbabwe where such councils are fighting technology. Swallow it Mr council, we are living in a tech world now, embrace tech as a business enabler. Instead of punishing those doctors, instead sit down and create a framework room regulate the service and let people enjoy the convenience. Mr Econet and your so called partner, the price is too steep.

    1. You just can’t do something and be allowed to do it simply because everyone else is doing it elsewhere. What Econet is doing in in violation of the law. Laws are there for a reason, as they stated, they are in violation of Section 97 of the Health Professions Act (Chapter 27:19). It is allowed elsewhere because THEIR laws allow it, ours DO NOT. Other countries permit the free/paid distribution of porn and online gambling, should we blindly follow suit and embrace it since it is a technological “advancement”.

      If you’ve used the service, you find yourself still being told to visit a doctor. That is a sort of legal disclaimer, because if your condition gets worse and you didn’t consult a REAL doctor (as recommended) the blame falls squarely in your hands, what a rip-off.

      The quality of care that can be provided over the phone leaves a lot to be desired. It’s no different to trying to solve someones I.T problem via phone and in person. Much get’s lost in speech, due to varying levels of expressiveness and broadness of vocabulary, even moreso when native languages are used.

      1. Laws should change to suit people’s needs. Not people’s needs to change to suit laws. People are not made for laws but rather laws are made for people. If people want porn regulate laws to accept porn but protect the children. If people want prostitution then regulate how it should be done to protect people. Banning something just because its not wanted by 20% of the people is not a solution. We are moving with times and its time this Council realises that they need to lobby parliament to change this archaic law. Innovate econet innovate!!!!!! Progress can only come through innovation

        1. The laws are actually there the protect the patient as a priority… NOT primarily for you to make money off them.

    2. That’s exactly what the ignorant “innovationist” would think.

      We have plenty of such people as you who think years of experience, pain and refinement in a profession should be tossed aside for your oh-so-wondetful idea.

      The like of which do not attempt to understand the reason why those regulations and hurdles exist.

      How would you feel if, say, a doctor came up with a solution for your industry but one that is ignorant of standards and best practices? Like one that does not enforce data protection techniques? Or one that does not follow good patterns of design? …

      Knowing what you know about a good software product… and the consequences of breaches and inability to scale or perform?

      Would you openly accept and implement such a thing that’s ignorant to best practices?

      I think not!

      You lot are the worst as you rush to implement solutions then shove them down people’s throat because you have some delusion that all else has to abandoned to make way for you.

      With proper consultation,guidance and engagement, such a thing would not have happened

  3. Premium number calls are a scam worldwide! How do you know that the person answering the call is not delaying or doctor taking call is not taking too long to diagnose the problem so that he gets more from cost of calls.

    Econet is not interested in public health, they are interested in their own bank balance health, nothing more nothing less. They are into business not charity work.

    If Econet were really concerned with public health, they would have made the calls cheaper like them taking 5c per minute and doctor getting 15c

    1. But then doctors fees are still charged according to time the consultation and treatment takes …. and here I speak of real physical doctors.

  4. After all is said and done – I still call my doc on his personal number anyway! Doctors embrace technology or drown. Artificial Intelligence is already diagonising patients more accurately!

  5. Who makes up this council??its doctors isn’t it. This is very clear its simple politics and its an effort by the doctor’s body to nip early this financially ruthless and mutating virus from penetrating their noble and mystefied field. They have to because it wouldn’t be a surprise to see most of them out of business and working for ecohealth in 5 years time. This is otherwise a brilliant idea which actually saves life though I think the best person to run it is a nurse.Econet instead has to come up with ideas that bring more business to the owners of this field rather than threaten their viability. Food for thought strive and team otherwise good initiative.

  6. The silly thing is the ‘Law’ it quotes, speaks of registration of health premises. It should be noted that the call centre is not actually a health premise as no patient ever sets foot in the. The call centre does not need to have a reception area, visitors chairs which can be easily cleaned, sinks, lockable Dangerous Drugs Cabinets etc which are the prescribed requirements for licencing a health premises – its a call centre, an office, dully licensed as such. It is just the fear of change, that is causing this non acceptance of a ‘potentially desruptive’ innovation. This council is, which is a council of peers is merely in self preservation mode, and guarding its territory against outsiders like Econet who would undercut their revenues.

  7. For those advocating that this is real game changer…. Be serious most gp can be reached over the phone or what’s app usually for free… I mean really this is just a premium number scam…. Medicine you need to eye the patient to get clues to the diagnosis… Further more if I have a lump do you actually think I can describe it over the phone adequately… What about a rash… They all look the same a lot of the time…. Zimbabweans as usual of to make a quick buck

  8. i have a question. this e-health doctor im paying 70 cents, can he write me a prescription to buy an antibiotic? or a ceft injection? or i have to c a real doctor for that? im a software developer but this is a rip-off. hie doc, a doc on the fone told me to tell you to write me a presciption. and how do you do Obs? on the phone?

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